It's so easy to forget that the audio specialty business has been with us for quite a long time; it's no fad, although audio is influenced by cultural fads and technology trends. Unfortunately, it's often for the worse. Whether it's delivering a trillion brutally compressed music files through cheap earbuds or Dynagroove or mini-disc or Divx or the DVD-Audio / SACD debacle, or "the cable wars" or on and on and on, any veteran of this industry knows what I am getting at. In sum, the audio specialty industry has shot itself in the foot so many times that it's a wonder hi-fi still lives on after all the large and small scale mistakes the audio industry has allowed to occur cyclically at its' own & the publics' considerable expense.
Well, it's time to pay the piper now. In year 32 of a career as an audio specialty vendor, it's obvious to this fellow that the core values of hi-fi, and implementation of these standards in domestic environments, are basically under attack due to the effect of changes in the way the public consumes music. The apparently addictive cell phone culture, multi-tasking, seeming lack of time, the 'ear brillo' listening fatigue caused by the vicious circle of MP-3 compression and the regrettable way today's' popular music is recorded; all these developments have had a negative cumulative effect.
It's no wonder that for the first time in the history of music industry statistics, older music (Jimi Hendrix for example,) is outselling newly released music. Even more retro is the fact that much of this music enjoyment is coming from turntables; portable they are not. This flies in the face of the 'portability syndrome', another trend that bypasses the fact that the best place to enjoy reproduced music is in the comfort of your home, played through fine loudspeakers. Jimi Hendrix and all the 60s' mega-music was recorded using loudspeakers and cannot be fully plumbed through any headphones. All of that amazing music was meant to be felt as well as heard, period. Millennials, get good speakers, you will wonder why you waited so long.
End of minor rant.
At the same time, there is recently released factual information of the most positive type concerning the significance of good-sounding music in the home.
Apple & Sonos, working with author Daniel Levitin (This is Your Brain on Music,) completed and released the results of a study that should be the tool of salvation for the kinky, squirrelly audio specialty business.
There were 30 thousand households all over the world that participated. Even more, this study was conducted in the domestic habitat where real life occurs; not an irrelevant small sample study under artificially controlled circumstances. The participants were forbidden to listen to any music at all for 7 days. The next 7 days, they were free to enjoy any music any time. During the first 7 days, all the actions, behaviors, communications, moods and personal inter-actions were noted and recorded. All of this basic human activity w/o music in their homes and lives was then compared to the same range of behaviors etc. when music was freely playing in the home in the second 7 day period.
Results? OMG. Every single aspect of life and activity skyrocket-ed in the positive direction, even things you'd think wouldn't matter; people enjoyed cooking more, families spent significantly more time together, said "I love you" more, & on & on .Conclusion: Good-sounding music flowing in the home IS NOT OPTIONAL where happiness and quality of life are concerned.
I have spoken widely and also previously written about the industry's need to re-position itself in a far more mainstream fashion analogous to organic food or other widely accepted elements of 'the good life. So why is this breakthrough study essentially invisible, and more to the real point, why has this studies' conclusion been ignored when it so powerfully speaks to our industry's purpose? Why? Why? Why?
The unequivocally positive results of the Apple / Sonos / Levitin study are apparently almost unknown to far too many industry colleagues; I am somewhat shocked, but given the past history of the audio specialty business, I am simply more saddened and disturbed than is usual.
Some of you out there may ask why I'm upset enough to write this article. The answer lies in two simple facts. First, despite the fact that I'm headed for retirement in less than two years, I actually deeply care about the future of the Hi-Fi / Music tradition. Many audio specialty manufacturers have boomers as principal or CEOs; they too are nearing the end of their careers. But not enough of these head honchos seem to have much future-vision. Their concerns are tied up in filling todays' & tomorrows' orders, same old stuff department. I was recently surprised upon attending a high-end cable companies' 3 day training to find that their young marketing experts are walking on the same old path and were quite closed to discussing alternative marketing methods. Whoa Nellie!
Two, now we have a scenario where two of the worlds' most powerful and recognized audio brands have given us confirmation that is exactly the catalyst that I have previously described; it's a powerful tool that gives 100% credence to the power of music as a vital constituent life element, and completely supports the original hi-fi postulate: The music and sound are not the same ,but the more accurately and naturally we reproduce the sound, the far greater access we have to the music, which is the artists' emotion and intent. Clean music sound at home= deeper rewards & improved quality of life.
Products can still be differentiated technically, but promoting hi-fi music listening under the banner of this study's message should be a message uniformly delivered from all points of our industry. To continue in the same old fashion is to lubricate entropy, no more no less. Even as an official member of the 'dinosaur' fraternity, I have recognized and for quite a while now strongly promoted the proven physiological and mental wellness benefits attainable from hi-fi music listening that this semi-desperate industry has so foolishly left in the closet. As well, high-end audio madness goes on while every day the mainstream public becomes less aware of the value of 'real listening.'
OK, I am officially laying down the gauntlet here as follows: I would like every audio business person who reads this article to get back to me via e-mail, and do tell me why my belief in the need for the re-positioning of specialty audio is not valid (as the boomers continue to fade), and why we have buried one of the most powerful tools ever given to us as music-loving business folks?
I could just go home and listen to music, like so many workers in the audio specialty business do at days' end. However, I will continue to lobby for a new perspective and the use of an educational sales tool the likes of which no other era has previously provided. Now everybody, pick up the ball and run with it. As Satchel Paige sagely said," Don't look back, somethin' might be gaining on you."
Voice: (707) 595-2020